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Time to think about time

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PURE PLEASURE You don't need deep pockets to enjoy life. Everyday exchanges can fill you with quiet pleasure
PURE PLEASURE You don't need deep pockets to enjoy life. Everyday exchanges can fill you with quiet pleasure

C.K. MEENA

Whether we use that one chance of life for frantic acquisition or for leisurely sharing, there's no telling how or when our time will come

If there's one expression that makes me gag it's "that special someone". It's so coy and hackneyed. You must have read it two hundred times these past few weeks when advertisers were urging you not to think twice about the price when you were buying a gift for - ugh, I can't say it, the phrase just sticks in my throat.For most city-zens, the festival of sacrifice and giving had turned into a festival of splurging and gorging. Maybe you couldn't afford to spend Christmas in Singapore or New Year's Eve collecting shopping points on your membership card at a local lifestyle store. Good. You must feel far less stressed out than those who did. You have time to put your feet up and watch the flowers grow. You have time to think about time, and life, and your fellow beings.I saw two of my fellow-beings having a whale of a time the other day. These were two barefoot VYPs (very young persons) whom I watched while my bus was stuck at a signal on Mysore Road. They were sitting backwards on someone's scooter in a parking lot outside a factory. VYP-1 was hugging the stepney and VYP-2 was hugging him. They were playing a game that sent them into uncontrollable fits of laughter.And what was the game? They would ask every person passing by what the time was. "Time yeshtu?" VYP-2 would ask, and before the passer-by could reply, VYP-1 would pipe up, "Ondu varey", or "Nalakku varey" or any old number he could think of. One or two people actually did stop to look at their watches and reply, but that wasn't the point of the game. The fun part was answering their question themselves, and wrongly at that. The game kept them in splits for I don't know how long. In between, VYP-2 noticed me watching them from my window seat. He grinned, pointed to his wrist, and mouthed the words "Time yeshtu?" I grinned back. When the bus moved we waved to each other.You don't need deep pockets to enjoy life. Everyday sights can make you smile; everyday exchanges can fill you with quiet pleasure. At a traffic signal in the city I saw a woman with a snowy head of hair, sitting sidesaddle on a scooter. She looked at least 80 years old. My autodriver too had observed her. "Do you see her?" he asked me in an awestruck voice. "A bit dangerous, isn't it? She should be travelling by auto, no, madam?" When I agreed, he added quite innocently: "Once people get to be your age, they should start travelling by auto. Your age, and after." I let that pass.The driver couldn't keep his eyes off her. Fascination was mingled with respect in his voice when he spoke: "Just watch her, her hands and head are shaking. She must be 90, alva?" In his neighbourhood a woman had lived to be 128 years old, he said. Staring at the frail woman whose palsied hands were tapping the back of the middle-aged woman rider, he remarked: "She'll run for another 20 years, what do you say?" He laughed warmly.Some live till 90 and that amazes us. Some die at 20 and that, too, amazes us. The podgy and talkative autodriver who dropped me home one noon couldn't rest until he had told me about the customer he had picked up the previous day. "Around this time it was, madam. I am still in shock." His passenger was a 28-year-old painter going home to lunch. He told the driver: "Just wait till I finish lunch and take me back to my workplace." The driver obliged. The young man finished lunch all right. But the driver took him not to work but straight to hospital. "Heart attack, madam," shouted the driver. "He died! Can you imagine? He had a wife and small child. She was three months pregnant also."The autodriver was so shaken by his experience that he had taken the rest of the day off. "We just cannot say when we'll die," he told me sagely. "Nothing is in our hands, nothing. We might as well enjoy life, isn't it, madam? We only live once. Just one chance we get."Just one chance. And so many ways to use it. But whether we use that chance for a life of frantic acquisition or of leisurely sharing, there's no telling how or when our time will come. We could be felled by a heart attack or a terrorist's bullet, take our last breath while drinking tea, or walking the dog, or listening to Metallica, or talking to a friend.The last thing on earth that painter did was have lunch with his family. Not a bad way to go. But imagine if the last thing on earth you did was have a huge fight with your daughter, or kick your neighbour's cat, or buy a 250-rupee bar of soap. Kind of embarrassing, isn't it?Send your feedback to ckmeena@gmail.com

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